When you’re small, you need to be smarter. That means identifying trends sooner and executing programs better. That has always been one of the Simon School’s strengths.
A program long known for delivering a curriculum that fused quantitative analysis and economics-based thinking, Simon made headlines in 2015 by cutting tuition by nearly 14%. That action served as the proverbial shot across the bow against ever-rising tuition. Now, Simon is tackling a different issue. As political rhetoric on immigration has heated up in the United States, international students have grown increasingly wary of studying there, helping to drive a slump in MBA applications during the 2017-2018 cycle. At the same time, legislative gridlock has left the Optional Practical Training (OPT) work visa stuck at one year This creates a paperwork-intensive nightmare for potential employers that makes international students less competitive for U.S.-based jobs than their American counterparts.
Rather than following this lose-lose model for international students and employers alike, Simon made a bold move. This year, the MBA program earned a STEM Designation, a government program designed to head off a shortfall in technical talent in the coming decade. In a nutshell, the school revamped its curriculum so that 50% of its coursework involved science, technology, engineering, and math topics. Here’s the radical part: the revamp was extended to cover all 10 of its specializations, rather than simply cherry-picking one specialization or master’s program.
By doing so, Simon will be able to extend international graduates’ OPT by 24 months. This enables them to work in the U.S. for three years, giving them three shots at a green card. This designation also cuts the costs and paperwork associated with company sponsorships, making international candidates all the more attractive to American employers.
“Getting 36 months on an OPT work visa is trivial compared to the exercise you have to go through for an H1b visa,” says Dean Andrew Ainslie in a 2018 interview with P&Q. “A company doesn’t have the massive expensive of a lawyer and paperwork…Right now, for any foreign student, it’s been something of a scary moment. Quite a few companies have pulled back from offering foreign students jobs. This will open a lot more doors for our students.”
This change also represents a major win for Simon, which expects to draw more applications from the international student pool and gain greater credibility from recruiters seeking more tech-savvy and data-minded candidates. However, the STEM designation wasn’t the only wrinkle at Simon, whose curriculum is grounded in its patented FACT model (Frame, Analyze, and Communicate). This year, the program implemented a semester system to better coincide with recruiter schedules. It also rolled out an Integrated Student Experience (ISE), a customized development and coaching plan that unifies the academic, extracurricular, and social sides of the MBA experience. Such alterations simply strengthen an MBA program known for its intimate size, student-run consulting firm, and world-renowned pricing programming.
Still, the STEM designation is expected to be a game-changer, an innovation likely to be copied by peer schools in the coming years. “Everything has been oriented around what the recruiters need,” Ainslie adds. “Recruiters have been saying to us that it is very hard to find talent in the U.S. and very hard to employ foreign students because of the uncertainty around the H1b visa. This is a big win for both of us.”